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Can I Get More Than the Other Driver’s Policy Limit in an Accident?

Question

I suffered serious injuries in a car accident and need surgery. The other driver has Alliance United Insurance, which I understand only writes small policies. Can I get more than the policy limit?

Answer

Yes, it’s possible to get more than the defendant’s policy limit, but it’s not easy, and you will need a personal injury lawyer who has experience “opening up” policies.

The lowest bodily injury policy limit that California allows is $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident. Attorneys refer to this as a “15/30 policy,” or a “minimal policy.” If it’s a 15/30 policy, that means that the most that the insurance carrier will pay on any single individual’s injury claim (which includes medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering) is $15,000. If the defendant caused more than one person to be injured, then the most that the defendant’s carrier will pay to everyone injured is $30,000, with no one person getting more than $15,000.

If the other driver is insured with one of the companies listed below, there is a good chance it’s a 15/30 policy limit:

  • Alliance United
  • Fred Loya
  • Infinity
  • Bristol West
  • Anchor General

The Problem

If you need surgery, $15,000 is not enough – your claim is worth substantially more than $15,000. Though the defendant is legally liable for the full value of your claim, the defendant’s carrier will not pay more than the policy limit, and will not pay that policy limit unless you sign a release giving up your right to go after the defendant personally for over and above the policy limit. If someone has a minimal policy, there’s a good chance that they don’t have assets, or they would have purchased more insurance.

The Solution

It is possible to get the defendant’s insurance carrier to pay more than the policy limit. We refer to his as “opening up” the policy or “removing the cap.” It is not easy to do. Most personal injury lawyers do not have experience opening policies. You will need an experienced personal injury attorney who knows how to open the policy. The sooner the attorney is hired after a serious accident, the better the chance that the policy can be opened. You should know that It is not a given that the policy can be opened. It is in fact often a long shot. But it can be done. At McGee, Lerer & Associates, our lawyers know how to open policies.

If you’ve suffered serious injuries in a car accident, you should be concerned about whether the defendant has enough insurance. We can help you figure that out, and give you our advice on whether it’s worth trying to open the policy. Our lawyers are available 24/7 for a free consultation.

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